Daily Archives: March 3, 2011

All About Jazz-Italy review by Vincenzo Roggero

Billy Fox’s Blackbirds & Bullets – Dulces (CF 204)
Valutazione: 3.5 stelle
Pupillo di Jane Ira Bloom, cresciuto tra punk, rock, metal e quant’altro, il batterista Billy Fox sembra privilegiare negli ultimi lavori il ruolo di compositore e direttore musicale, come avviene anche in questo Dulces. Ma, a differenza dei precedenti dischi organizzati sotto forma di suite, Dulces presenta sei brani autonomi, dalla specificità marcata, che vivono di vita propria nonostante su di essi aleggi lo spirito di Rabindranath Tagore autore del conclusivo “E Ki E Sundaro Shobha”.
Spirito che ha prodotto più di duemila composizioni abbracciando i numerosi stili folklorici indiani, così come la musica religiosa, la musica classica indiana e quella europea conservandone e rispettandone l’originalità. E spirito che trasmette un senso di serenità, di leggerezza, di soavità, di fragranza – dolci, per l’appunto- a tutta l’incisione. Non vengono esibiti soli(sti) eccezionali in Dulces ma, come nella miglior tradizione dolciaria, è il perfetto dosaggio e amalgama degli ingredienti a risultare decisivo per la buona riuscita finale.

E allora spazio a robuste linee melodiche attorno alle quali i musicisti creano convincenti trame armoniche, spazio a gustosi impasti timbrici, ad accattivanti modulazioni ritmiche e soprattutto spazio all’immaginazione. Perché “Girl Cheese Sandwich” sembra portarci dalle parti di Dizzy Gillespie e della sua frequentazione con il compositore e arrangiatore argentino Lalo Schifrin. “Deva Dasi” profuma di balcani e di oriente, “Tatsin” è la perfetta colonna sonora per un blaxploitation movie, mentre la conclusiva “E Ki E Sundaro Shobha” è una ninna dolce come zucchero filato.
http://italia.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=6191

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All About Jazz-Italy review by Vincenzo Roggero

Ken Filiano & Quantum Entanglements – Dreams From a Clown Car (CF 207)Valutazione: 4 stelle
Ken Filiano, presenza tra le più assidue nella musica creativa su entrambe le coste degli States, a dispetto delle numerosissime partecipazioni, ha inciso relativamente poco nelle vesti di leader. Qui siamo addirittura ad un debutto, quello del quartetto pianoless denominato Quantum Entanglements. Nelle note di copertina Filiano dichiara come sia sempre stato affascinato dal mondo del circo ed in particolare dai clowns, figure straordinarie in grado di riunire in un unico individuo l’intera gamma di emozioni e di sentimenti dell’animo umano.
Dreams from a Clown Car si può idealmente dividere alla maniera dei vecchi vinili in facciata A – i primi tre brani – e facciata B – i rimanenti quattro. La facciata A ci racconta dell’attesa, dei momenti che precedono lo spettacolo carichi di frenesia, ribollenti di tensione e di concitazione con le urla, i richiami, la confusione, l’inevitabile fermento. La musica sembra fuori controllo, i fiati di Michael Attias e Tony Malaby appaiono come grottesche rappresentazioni di ansie e paure umane.

L’adrenalina scorre a fiumi con la batteria tellurica di Michael T.A. Thompson che scuote violentemente tutto ciò che gli gira intorno, il basso del leader che pulsa provocatorio, una miccia accesa pronta a scatenare il caos. I rarissimi momenti di quiete apparente sono il preludio a improvvise deflagrazioni. Poi arriva la facciata B, si spengono le luci e lo spettacolo comincia. I movimenti sposano la fluidità, scompaiono gli stridori e le dissonanze, prende il sopravvento una sorta di armoniosa rigorosità stilistica e strutturale. La bellezza dei gesti diventa sublime espressione artistica e incantevole poesia, la musica tiene l’ascoltatore con il fiato sospeso come un equilibrista in bilico sulla fune, e si accende la magia di un momento unico e irripetibile. Affascinante.
http://italia.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=6224

All About Jazz review by Mark Corroto

Mostly Other People Do the Killing –  The Coimbra Concert (CF 214)
The stand-up comic begins, “I went to a day of rage riot the other day, and a Moppa Elliott concert broke out.” He might continue with, “Take my jazz canon, please.” That is just what the bassist’s quartet, Mostly Other People Do The Killing, does—seize the jazz standard and demolish it. The Coimbra Concert is the first live recording by the group, following its fourth studio record, Forty Fort (Hot Cup, 2009).

Just as beboppers were criticized for ruining swing music, and before that swing for stepping on traditional jazz, the members of MOPDTK are the villains in any neoconservative diatribe. Like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie’s bebop revolution, saxophonist Jon Irabagon and trumpeter Peter Evans can skate circles around just about any performer playing music today, as evidenced on Irabagon’s Foxy (Hot Cup, 2010), with drummer Barry Altschul, and Evans’ Scenes In The House Of Music (Clean Feed, 2010), with free jazz heavyweights Evan Parker, Barry Guy and Paul Lytton.

The nucleus of these two live dates from May 2010 are bassist Elliott’s compositions and drummer Kevin Shea’s versatile and elastic playing. Each piece seemingly begins with a theme but, before long, MOPDTK’s attention deficit creates disorder. You are as likely to hear “Night in Tunisia” played in double time (on “Blue Ball”) as you are pieces of John Coltrane’s “Acknowledgement” (on “Pen Argyl”) and some Pink Floyd (“Round Bottom, Square Top”). The players don’t dishonor the jazz tradition as much as they reverse gravity it into their black hole of music, devouring all styles and techniques.

The band switches between a New Orleans’ marching band on “Round Bottom, Square Top” to a piano-less Miles Davis/Coltrane ensemble on “Factoryville,” that morphs a blues into an Indian raga with a ringing telephone. Elliott and Shea create the latitude for Irabagon and Evans’ flights of freedom and extended technique soloing, and their talent is immense.

Like Muhammad Ali defeating the then heavyweight champion Sonny Liston in 1964, the new champions, armed with speed and style, can easily humiliate all comers of the (now) old schools of jazz.
http://www.cleanfeed-records.com/disco2.asp?intID=354

All About Jazz-Italy review by Vincenzo Roggero

Achim Kaufmann – Robert Landfermann – Christian Lillinger – Grunen (CF 202)
Valutazione: 4 stelle
Non avevano mai suonato insieme, prima di questo concerto di Colonia, registrato senza una prova, senza un canovaccio, senza un segno di matita su un foglio di carta che potesse fungere da minimo riferimento. E non si direbbe proprio ascoltando Grunen! Perché il pianista Achim Kaufmann (esperienze con Michael Moore, John Hollenbeck, Jim Black, Mark Dresser, Han Bennink, Chris Speed) il contrabbassista Robert Landfermann (già con Joachim Kühn, Simon Nabatov, Urs Leimgruber, Tobias Delius, Rudi Mahall) e il batterista Lilian Lillinger (Alexander von Schlippenbach, Leo Smith, Barre Phillips, David Liebman and John Tchicai) licenziano un album coeso, maturo, dall’ intenso interplay, profondamente musicale.

I tre modellano i suoni come creta, mutandone continuamente la forma, il grado di viscosità e di lucentezza. Kaufmann attraverso un pianismo dal fraseggio irregolare, aperto, che procede per impulsi, imprevisti e accidenti, dove le singole note appaiono maestose nella loro solitudine. Lillinger con un drumming quasi invisibile per delicatezza e tocco, Landfermann muovendosi tra pulsazioni minimaliste, glissandi e un azzeccato uso degli armonici.

Unica eccezione “Ur” il brano numero sette, dalla iniziale linea melodica dolce ed esplicita, che acquista progressivamente furori alla Cecil Taylor in un turbinio denso, scuro, asfissiante. Una azzeccata anomalia che oltre ad evidenziare le straordinarie qualità strumentali dei musicisti contribuisce ad aumentare il fascino di un disco per certi versi sorprendente.

The New York City Record review by Elliott Simon

Billy Fox’s Blackbirds and Bullets – Dulces (CF 204)
Dulces is a strong mix of culturally diverse influences. Billy Fox, a percussionist who composed six of the seven tunes, ostensibly sits out as a musician (he does add maracas on occasion) and allows a superb sextet to interpret his pieces. These tunes respectfully retain their worldliness, a credit to Fox’ robust aesthetic and the band’s keen perception of his intent. The results are both great party cuts along with spiritually contemplative pieces. A frontline of versatile trumpeter Miki Hirose and saxophonists Gary Pickard and Matt Parker engage in a manner that produces a worldly choir while individually conjuring up exotic lines. Keyboardist Evan Mazunik surprises with his funkiness and combines with bassist James Ilgenfritz and drummer Arei Sekiguchi to navigate what, at times, is a panoply of infectious rhythms. The session begins with Hirose tentatively using his horn to explore the melodic curds and whey of “Girl Cheese Sandwich” before Sekiguchi signals a catchy tri-horn voicing that is put to bed by an evocative extended bassline. Pickard’s snake-charming soprano sax then lays down a refrain that hypnotizes “Go Pocket Pickles!” into a semi-tumescent state. This is perfect foreplay for the full blown excitement of “Deva Dasi”, featuring Julianne Carney’s erotically exotic violin as part of this extended paean to the ancient Indian ‘temple girl’ tradition. A quick funky visit to “Tatsin” is made courtesy of Mazunik’s hip organ and Parker’s tenor before “Elisha and the She Bears” powerfully retells its biblical story of prophetic vengeance. Things close out with an ethereally beautiful version of a selection from Bengali cultural pillar Rabindranath Tagore’s large corpus of songs. Worldly in every sense, Dulces is a sweet but by nomeans sugary mix of Mid-Eastern, South Asian and African musical ingredients, thoroughly blended into a jazz base.

The New York City Record review by Kurt Gottschalk

Various Artists – I Never Meta Guitar: Solo Guitars for the XXI Century (CFG 005)
There are many adjectives that could be put on the right hand side of the slash, just after “guitarist/” that precedes Elliott Sharp’s name. He is a slash-composer, slash-inventor and something of a slash-ambassador. But despite his variety of projects, his reputation as a guitarist of remarkable precision and innovation will no doubt remain for what he’s most known.
Sharp is also something of an advocate for musical experimentation, as seen through the four State of the Union records he compiled and produced in the ‘80s-90s. Those records began as a who’s-who of Downtown music and expanded to a valuable international compendium. On I Never Meta Guitar, Sharp curates astate of the union of adventurous guitarists of different nations and generations and in so doing programs a listenable and enjoyable collection. The disc opens with an excellent solo piece by Mary Halvorson, swelling from finger-pattern to overdrive and goes onto include Jeff Parker multi-tracking and filtering himself into an appealing glitchdom, Henry Kaiser apparently playing six guitars simultaneously and Mike Cooper covering Ornette Coleman, along with tracks by Noël Akchoté, Nels Cline, Kazuhisa Uchihashi and Mick Barr. (Apparently, as in Keith Rowe’s guitar quartet, the guitarists don’t necessarily need to play guitar: Raoul Björkenheim is heard on electric viol de gamba and Brandon Ross picks a six-string banjo.)
Sharp himself gets the last word, on his eight-string guitarbass with delay, which seems appropriate enough. Even with all his work here as composer, producer and saxophonist, he is in the end a guitarist’s guitarist.

The New York City Record Artist Feature on Elliott Sharp

Only a few days after his 60th birthday, the Issue Project Room (IPR) will be celebrating the work of guitarist and composer Elliott Sharp. It will be a mega-blow-out two-day event, staged at the old and new locations of this dynamic Brooklyn experimental music venue. Definitions of ‘old’ and ‘new’ are malleable. The current IPR manifestation lurks in the fetid Gowanus industrial swamp land, whereas the ‘new’ building is opening soon (it was originally built in 1925), in the organization’s impressive downtown Brooklyn surroundings. Already, though, concerts have been sporadically presented in its unfinished marble interior.

Sharp lives in the Lower East Side, but his long-established recording studio zOaR is situated in theEast Village. This 7th Street building is co-operatively owned, mostly by musicians. Besides Sharp, current inhabitants include Charles Gayle, John Zorn and Anthony Coleman. I interviewed Sharp there the day after he’d returned from a European tour, injecting caffeine at his mixing console and surrounded by his usual impressive assemblage of guitars. Sharp’s current activity was refining the 2002 score for an orchestral piece, “Calling”, which is being performed this month by the Sarasota Symphony. He’s‘re-engraving’ it, using superior software. “It’s the most tedious work in the world,” Sharp grumbles. “I hate it, but it gives me a chance to listen to [other people’s] music while I’m working.” As if there isn’t enough of his own extremely innovative music already littering the massively prolific Sharp’s daytime (and night-time) hours. He’s a certified omnivore, blessed with a complete understanding of and intuitive naturalness with both improvisation and composition. From string quartets to blistering blues combos. Solo guitar spontaneity to detailed computer shaping of electro-acoustic matter. Oh and Sharp can also switch, sometimes, to his saxophone and clarinet array. “Orchestral players are incredibly conservative,” he says, considering his screen of notation. “These days, there’s no money for rehearsals. You want to give them a score that’s absolutely perfect. There can’t be any discussion.”

Sharp possesses a dual nature. He appears scientific, diligent, organized and precise, carefully controlling compositions for large ensembles. Conversely, he’s eager to immerse himself in the turbulent flow of spontaneous musical interaction, improvising promiscuously with all manner of partners, from all musical genres. At his dirtiest, the guitarist will be spraying out scalding guitar solos in front of the Terraplane blues combo. The next day, he might be improvising fragile acoustic filigrees with a koto or pipa player. Or playing solo coruscations on his Godin eight-string guitar, as documented on the Octal albums for the Clean Feed label.

The first concert is a benefit to aid the opening of the new IPR premises and will be staged in this Livingston Road location. The second will happen at the out-going Gowanus factory space and will head deep into the night.

Actor and IPR board member Steve Buscemi will be hosting the first show with his wife, the visual artist Jo Andres. The evening will feature premieres of two Sharp pieces, underlining that here is an artist who might enjoy looking back, but only when taking the occasional break from looking forward. “I’ve known Steve since the early ‘80s, on the Lower East Side performance art scene,” says Sharp. “Jo is a film maker and choreographer who I began working with around 1984, composing music for a number of her productions.” In January, Sharp was busy preparing the double string quartet piece, “Occam’s Razor”, to be premiered at IPR. The other new work, “Trinity”, is written for the Godin electro-acoustic guitar, with narration by Buscemi and film by Andres. Sharp was drawn to the idea of a spatial quality, to take advantage of the new location’s impressive interior. For “Occam’s Razor”, two string quartets (Jack and Sirius) will inhabit alcoves to each side of the audience.

In assembling the works to be presented in this retrospective, Sharp paid careful attention to which pieces would successfully inhabit the acoustic spaces in question. He also wanted to emphasize works that have been created during the last decade, although many of these spring from artistic relationships that have their roots in the ‘80s, or even the ‘70s. Initially, Sharp approached IPR’s Zach Layton with the idea of a birthday celebration. “I like to observe certain milestones,” smiles the 60-year-old who looks more like a 50-year-old. It turned out that Layton was already on the brink of calling Sharp with this very notion of a retrospective.

Sometimes, when a record company gives him a budget, Sharp will record elements in an outside studio, but much of his work is laid down in the more relaxed environs of zOaR. “So long as I have good, solid drum tracks, I can do anything. A lot of times, I’ll redo vocals here, or I’ll have horn players come in. I think the most I’ve ever had here is six people. I renovated this place in 2000, put in a sprung floor, a layer of insulation. It’s actually more to keep other people’s sound out. The worst thing is the drug dealers, two floors down.”

Sharp enjoys his extensive music-tech firmament. “There’s a famous Harry Partch quote about him being a composer being seduced into being a carpenter and I feel like I’m a composer seduced into being an engineer. I was always kind of a geek, anyway!”

The essential question is, how does Sharp feel at 60? Has he attained his goals? “I think I’m just getting started. Mentally, I’m still that 17-year-old with an electric guitar and a fuzzbox. I always try to find a sense of discovery in what I’m doing…”

*For more information, visit elliottsharp.com.
Sharp is at Issue Project Room Mar. 4th-5th and The Stone Mar. 15th with Alvin Curran and solo Mar. 23rd.

Recommended Listening:
• Elliott Sharp & I/S/M – ARC ONE: I/S/M(Atavistic, 1980-83)
• John Zorn – Cobra (hatOLOGY, 1985-86)
• Elliott Sharp – Sharp? Monk? Sharp! Monk!: Plays the Music of Thelonious Monk (Clean Feed, 2004)
• Elliot Sharp’s Terraplane – Secret Life (featuring Hubert Sumlin) (Intuition, 2005)
• T.E.C.K. String Quartet (Tomas Ulrich/Elliott Sharp/Carlos Zingaro/Ken Filiano) -String 4tet (Clean Feed, 2006)
Elliott Sharp – Octal Book One & Two(Clean Feed, 2007/2009)